The Forum for African Women Educationalists – Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI) joins in the observance of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV). 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December the Human Rights Day. The 2018 theme is ‘End Violence in the world of work’.
With this in mind one would then ask – ‘how safe are Zimbabwean women in the Workplace?’ More importantly for FAWEZI ‘how safe are girls and women in our schools?’ As an organisation that works mainly to reduce gender disparities in education, our campaign this year is inclined to School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV). Female administrators, teachers, non –teaching staff and learners can be victims or perpetrators of SRGBV.
For us the 16 days is not the only time to pay attention to the issues of SRGBV, but FAWEZI rides on the level of attention that is given to GBV issues during the campaign period. We intensify our messaging regarding the identification, reporting and step by step elimination of SRGBV. The 2018 campaign comes at a time FAWEZI will be running a project to prevent SRGBV using a ‘Whole School Approach Model’ published by the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI). This whole School Approach Model provides minimum standards to be achieved by schools in order to prevent SRGBV and also a monitoring framework to track progress.
SRGBV can be defined as ‘Gendered dimensions of all forms of peer-and-teacher, instigated violence, (Mirsky,2003). The violence can be overt, which include use of vulgar language and jokes, sexual advances, rape, intimidation and cyber bulling among others. It can also be covert which includes among others, practices that reinforce gender differentiation. It could be emotional violence where male teachers intimidate their female counterparts or female students. This can also take place among women and girls as they ridicule and disrespect each other.
The school as a workplace can be a platform for perpetuating gender stereotypes instead of empowering women and girls. Research has established that the common cause of gender violence is the powerlessness of women in a patriarchal society (Mirsky, 2003). Physical powerlessness can be addressed through empowering girls with self defense mechanisms from a young age.
In order to address the subtle and implicit forms of gender violence in schools, women staff in schools and girls should be empowered to value themselves, build their confidence, find focus and remain focused and believe in themselves. Schools should have capacity development workshops specifically on women and girls education. This will help improve the teachers’ and parents’ beliefs, attitudes and knowledge about girls and women in general and the education of women and girls in particular.
During this 2018 campaign FAWEZI is amplifying its voice against SRGBV and also opening up dialogue around the issue in its project schools and communities. Since silence around SRGBV is among the drivers of the social evil, the organisation will be running campaigns on the ground and online to raise awareness on the issue, and create long lasting networks of communication.
During this period we call upon the government of Zimbabwe and all the stakeholders to intensify current efforts in ending SRGBV and continue to work together to create safe learning spaces. We also encourage communities to play their part in preventing SRGBV and also support those who identify and report it.
16 Days of Activism is about more than just making noise about violence but also about creating strong movements that foster positive masculinities and promote rights to security, dignity, and freedom from all types of oppression for all persons.